Archived — Shopping for Satisfaction (3)

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Protecting Your Identity

Identity theft — stealing someone's personal information to commit fraud — is something you should be aware of both on-line and when using your credit or debit card in person.

Many of us communicate using e-mail and the Internet, which means we should be extra careful about the personal information we make available on the Information Highway. Here are some tips:

  • Don't allow sensitive information to be placed in an on-line directory or a searchable database for anyone to access.
  • Don't include your telephone number or home address as part of your signature on e-mails.
  • Never assume any e-mail or on-line transaction is private — it's not, unless it is encrypted. If a message is encrypted, you need a "key" to decode information before it can be accessed.

Identity theft doesn't just happen on-line. Here are other steps you can take to protect your personal information:

  • When possible, use cash for purchases you make in person.
  • Don't give anyone your credit card or bank account numbers unless you're making purchases with them, and don't write credit card numbers on your cheques.
  • Always check your credit card, debit card, cellular phone, telephone or other bills to make certain that all the charges are for things that you have authorized.
  • When filling out warranty or other information cards, don't include optional or unnecessary personal information.
  • Never share your personal identification number (PIN) with anyone.
  • Never keep your PIN with your card and never choose a PIN that is easily figured out.
  • Remember, your personal identification documents, driver's licence, birth certificate, and social insurance number can be used by "identity thieves" to gain access to loans, etc.

If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, contact the police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre toll-free at 1 888 495-8501.


A rebate is cash given to the consumer as an incentive to buy a particular model, make or brand of product. Rebates are usually offered by automotive, appliance or computer manufacturers to clear extra inventory, to control pricing structures or to coerce the consumer to buy other items from their product line. When claiming a rebate, it is important to read and follow the directions carefully to ensure you meet the terms of the agree-ment and to avoid disqualification. Rebates can be very beneficial to both the consumer and vendor.

In order to take full advantage of rebates without putting yourself at risk, keep the following points in mind:

  • The price advertised in big bold type is often the price you get after redeeming the rebate and in these cases, the cash you pay up-front will always be greater. Be careful — some retailers don't provide the "before rebate" cost, they merely advertise the "after rebate" price or the value of the rebate, leaving it up to the customer to calculate the initial cost.
  • The manufacturer controls the rebate, so the retailer may not be aware that there is a rebate on a particular product. Always ask the retailer to find out what the rebate is and when it expires.
  • It usually takes a few weeks to receive a rebate. Paying cash when purchasing the item will ensure that you're not paying interest on your credit while waiting for the rebate to arrive.
  • Many rebates require an original receipt or a proof of purchase. Read the terms of the rebate carefully to find out what you must send to the manufacturer.
  • It is likely that the distributor (i.e. the point-of-sale vendor) is under no obligation to assist you in obtaining a rebate, so you must be prepared to invest time and energy in the claim. Keep copies of all receipts, the rebate form and any correspondence you may have with the rebate provider.
  • When dealing with expiry date complications, it is important to keep track of dates. Record the date you sent the rebate and the dates of any subsequent communication with the manufacturer.
  • When dealing with a company to obtain a rebate that is rightfully yours, persistence is your best weapon — don't give up and don't get discouraged.
  • If you feel you're not being treated fairly, you can contact your local Better Business Bureau or your provincial or territorial office of consumer affairs.